Leadership Academy at Thunderbird

High-potential managers from 10 nominated international non-profit organizations and NGOs will develop new skills during the 2016 American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird.

May 9 - 13, 2016
Thunderbird Campus • 1 Global Place, Glendale, AZ 85306 

The annual program, launched in 2009 through a partnership with American Express, has served over 175 managers from nearly 60 organizations during its first six years. “One of the philanthropic goals of American Express is to focus on the development of social sector leaders,” said Thunderbird Professor Mary Teagarden, Ph.D., the Academy’s Academic Director. “These participants are on their way to positions of senior leadership.”

Feedback from Leaders of Participating Organizations
  • (The Academy project) at the core of our value proposition… is having major influence in the way we think about the future. And, as we’ve taken the concepts forward, we’ve called the idea “Thunderbird.” 
    - Christoph Gorder, Chief Global Water Officer, charity: water

  • “The change (in the participants) has been noteworthy…being able to share common experiences with other nonprofit leaders was seen as incredibly valuable. Having a coach to discuss career progression and to provide insight and feedback was also highly valued.”  
    - Angela Ciccolo, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, Special Olympics International

  • (As a result of the Academy, the team members) got additional responsibilities. They have improved further in innovating, thinking strategically and negotiation skills. They are now more aware of the balanced approach of problem solving when it comes to management and organizational growth. 
    - Mushtaque Chowdhury, Executive Director, BRAC

  • (The Academy participants) were able to implement…changes in operations to affect product quality and then to formulate action plans for other significant changes that will take time to implement but will have long term benefits to the organization
    - George Roberge, SVP, Project C.U.R.E.

  • Analyzing the (360) survey together and with their peers has been the greatest value. It’s been great to have open feedback and to create a culture of this type of positive and critical feedback in an open environment. 
    - Tom Casazzone, CFO, Pencils of Promise

  • The most important element was to have a strategic agenda going into the Academy experience. This allowed for shaping of the Academy experience to meet our organizational needs, as well as to respond to the individual needs of the participants. 
    - Maurice Middleberg, Executive Director, Free the Slaves

  • (The Academy) is an excellent development tool for staff who are ready to make a move to more strategic…and leadership positions. 
    - Jon Stettner, President and CEO, Make-A-Wish International

  • The project …will allow us to better support our partners and their needs for sustainability. It also allows us to tell the story of some of our partners in a fresh way, thereby increasing engagement with our volunteers and donors. 
    - Jeanie Picardi, Senior Director of Administration, Feed My Starving Children




The curriculum of the American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird focuses on building the personal, business and leadership skills needed to run a successful nonprofit organization. The Academy is tailored to fit cultural nuances and different nonprofit niche needs, with the following core elements being consistent: a focus on high-potential emerging leaders with a curriculum blending personal leadership skills with business skills, and an assessment-based approach, including one-on-one coaching and formal follow-up activities.

The program delivery is practical, highly interactive and immediately applicable to the workplace. Participants will participate in team exercises, case studies, class discussions and leadership style assessments. The Global Mindset Inventory assessment is used as a pre- and post-program assessment to measure the Global Mindset profile of the participants. Also, each team of participants further develops an organizational project that becomes refined during the Academy. The team members then work with their senior leadership to take the project to the next step at their organization.

Post-program evaluations show the American Express Leadership Academy gets top scores from the emerging leaders who attend. Participants report that the impact of this experience increases their leadership skills and global mindset. Participants also state they have significantly enhanced their strategic thinking and problem solving skills.

The 2016 Academy is designed to help participants stretch from one stage of leadership development to another in five specific areas. One stretch goal, for example, is to move from “personal productivity” to “team productivity plus individual productivity.” The development of leaders in the social sector is even more important today, because it enables an organization to continue to fulfill the social needs of people and contribute to overall social development.

DOWNLOAD academy brochure

American Express Leadership Academy 2015 - Press Release

This program is by invitation only. For your international non-profit organization or NGO to be considered for nomination please contact:

Debisu Hyde
Program Director
American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird
+1 (602) 978-7822

Thunderbird School of Global Management
1 Global Place
Glendale, AZ 85306

Brought to you by:

American Express